When you are working on a project and you have a tight deadline, it’s easy to forget that presenting your design is almost as important as the design itself. We spend ages making sure the design is perfect and refined, however we don’t dedicate the same attention to the presentation. Well, a poor presentation can ruin everything that you’ve worked so hard for. The presentation is what convinces the clients, impresses that agency that you’re trying to get a job with and makes your portfolio look great and professional.
With that in mind, our Briefbox team decided to create a series of tutorials showing what to do – and what not to do – when presenting your artwork. Today I’m going to talk about how to present stationery, more specifically business cards. To do so, I used the brief “Visual identity for a painter and decorator” as an example. Here is my approach to it:
I decided to go for a nice marble texture to add a special touch to the simple, minimalistic branding. It’s a sophisticated clean design that shows personality and professionalism. To present the design, I used a more opaque version of the marble texture for the background, as this texture will roll across all brand materials. I used a subtle drop shadow to make the design pop in the picture, and a lot of padding on the sides to make sure everything has space to breathe. By designing it this way, the minimalistic look & feel of the brand is also featured in the presentation, making all of it consistent and harmonic.
This is what you should look for when presenting your design. However, here is what you shouldn’t do:
1. Poor use of padding
Your design doesn’t need to be as large as the artboard. Padding is important and is not a waste, as it gives space for design to breathe, enhancing details that wouldn’t be noticed otherwise. Another mistake shows in this example is the use of lines to limit the artwork: it usually makes the design heavier and inconsistent as the line is not actually part of the layout. Try using a subtle drop shadow instead, it will make everything clean and make sure the design itself is the main feature.
2. Poor use of background
Backgrounds are really important. Since a lot of stationery artwork has a white background, people opt for a different background colour so the design stands out. However, there is a lot of room for mistakes here. Using a dark grey, black, or a strong gradient might make things even worse, as shown in the example above. That’s because these colours usually have nothing to do with the design, making the presentation inconsistent. Opt for using a colour present in the design itself instead, or leaving the background white and using a subtle drop shadow to show the limits of the design. Or if you have some kind of texture in your design, you can try to use a more opaque version as the background. But remember: it needs to be simple, almost neutral, to make sure the design is the main feature.
3. Too many elements
Less is more. Instead of trying to fill the artboard with designs, opt for a more minimal presentation that enhances your artwork rather than overwhelming the observer with information. The example above has unnecessary repeated information, uses different angles and doesn’t have a good hierarchy of information. It looks too busy and it doesn’t enhance the design in any way. Preferably you should create more images or slides with the artwork instead of trying to fit everything in just one!
4. Bad mockups
If you can’t find good mockups, choose not to use them. We can find a lot of mockups for free on the internet nowadays, but most of them don’t look very good and you have to be very selective. If you really want to use a mockup, dedicate some time to find one that looks real enough (it has to have the perspective right, at least) and matches your design (a dark fake wood doesn’t exactly go with a marbled, light minimal design, does it?). Maybe consider buying one, if you really need to. Or do not use one at all – you can still present it with impact if using a nice background, loads of padding and a subtle drop shadow, as we did 😉
Hopefully this will help you laying out your design for future submissions, client presentations and school/uni work. Why not try to apply what you learned here and have a go at one of our branding and stationery briefs? And don’t forget to keep an eye on the tutorials: this series will continue (websites, user interfaces, branding and lots more). Stay tuned!